Priming Donor Identity in Digital Profiles of Online Networking Sites: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment
33 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2016 Last revised: 3 Jun 2020
Date Written: Feburary 8, 2020
In the last decade, we have observed increased efforts by online networking sites to transform rich network resources into prosocial activities such as charitable giving. A key feature that distinguishes online social networks from the offline human networks is the digital profile that can automatically report users’ behavior inside or even outside an online network. Our study examines the impact of a profile design change in a microblogging platform to disclose users’ charitable donation volumes in an affiliated fundraising platform through a widget. This widget primes donor identity and may alter users’ subsequent decisions of whether to donate and where to donate according to the donation choices of their social connections. We find that users, on average, become less likely to donate after the widget is introduced. A heterogeneity analysis is conducted to account for users’ different motives for online charitable giving and reveals that such a negative response is only observed from users who do not have the highest posting frequency or the highest number of followers but have made the most charitable donations. More theoretically intriguing, we find that after the introduction of the widget, users become more likely to defy the donation choices of their one-way connections (i.e., users whose content is subscribed by the focal user) but not the donation choices of their two-way connections (i.e., users who subscribe to the focal user and are subscribed by the focal user). We discuss relevant theories to derive a comprehensive understanding of the nascent perspective that profile design can potentially alter users’ susceptibility to social influence in an online social network.
Keywords: reciprocity, susceptibility to social influence, social network, interrupted time series design
JEL Classification: H41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation